Tag Archives: UNESCO

Holasovice’s Commitment to Preservation

Tucked away off a narrow country roadway in the Czech Republic’s South Bohemia region sits a tiny well-preserved village. The entire village! Rows of gabled white houses, some in various stages of renovation, line each side of the village green of this charming medieval town. Behind tall gates are barns, most having now been transformed into modern day garages. Each uniquely styled home is similar yet different maintaining authentic details of the past as they undergo their exterior facelifts.bird-in-nest

Holasovice, situated 15 km west of Ceske Budajovice, is a picturesque village that can be traced back to 1292. The entire village – something very rare – is a well-preserved example of a traditional central European community encompassing an 18-19th century architectural style known as South Bohemian Folk Baroque. The village also preserves a “ground plan” dating from the Middle Ages.

Visiting historical destinations is one of the fastest growing activities for U.S. leisure travelers. What’s more, according to America’s National Trust for Historic Preservation, historic preservation is an important component of authentic destinations and experiences. And since American travelers extend their sojourns to overseas historic sites as well, it’s no surprise that I have sought out this UNESCO-listed world heritage site while traveling through the Czech Republic.

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A mustard yellow chapel dwarfed by a thin wooden maypole stretching skyward, punctuated by lush green grass and a pond set against today’s backdrop of incoming navy blue storm clouds and warm summer temperatures, define Holasovice as we make a left-hand turn into the peaceful rural village of 140 inhabitants.

In Europe, May Day (May 1) has traditionally been observed with celebrations extending back to pre-Christian Europe. May 1 was the first day of summer, while the summer solstice on June 21 was “midsummer”. May Day might be best known for its tradition of dancing around the maypole.

Erected each spring, maypoles are tall wooden poles with several long colored ribbons streaming from the top. On May Day, village children would dance around the town’s maypole weaving multi-colored ribbons in and out creating striking patterns. That tradition continues today in the Czech Republic.maypole

In Europe, May Day (May 1) has traditionally been observed with celebrations extending back to pre-Christian Europe. May 1 was the first day of summer, while the summer solstice on June 21 was “midsummer”. May Day might be best known for its tradition of dancing around the maypole.

Erected each spring, maypoles are tall wooden poles with several long colored ribbons streaming from the top. On May Day, village children would dance around the town’s maypole weaving multi-colored ribbons in and out creating striking patterns. That tradition continues today in the Czech Republic.

Strong encircling stucco walls and wooden gates tightly embrace as they join homesteads together along with a shared barn at the property’s rear, an example of traditional rural settlements of central Europe.so-bohemia-folk-baroque-architecture

Historians liken the unique architecture to the South Bohemian countryside. Outlines of the homes, they claim, appear to copy the roundish shapes of the surrounding landscape with numerous elements of nature represented on gables between windows, and on front entrances and gates.

Historically, the individual homestead fronts are more than 30 meters deep and connect into one unit with the granary at back. This original layout – another reason why this village earned a place on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1998 – consists of a long middle hall that connected the house to stables and sheds at the rear without needing to venture outside. In other words, the barn at the rear center of the property is jointly connected to respective sheds and a house on either side.

The yard was enclosed by a large barn centered in back with doors at the front and back allowing farmers to pass directly through with their animals and primitive farming equipment into the fields. This Gothic ground plan remains intact.typical-shared-yard

Each July, this old-time village comes alive with its annual two-day fair. Festivities typically include music and traditional dance performances, theater productions, horse rides, jugglers, and national handicrafts for sale that are hand made by artisans from Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia.

This miniscule jewel well hidden among the surrounding flat countryside of grain- yielding fields was a welcome surprise. Holasovice’s preservation has kept the charm of its simple past intact… tantamount to its image from the canvas of history.

 

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Doha’s Sheikh Faisal Museum Blends Islamic Civilization with Qatari Heritage Treasures

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The open door of a castle wall beckons us into the Hall of Islamic Arts. I was unprepared for what was to follow during the next two and a half hours. I literally found something new around each corner leading into yet another new hall of artifacts. The Sheikh Faisal Museum is a place where the past is alive and well.

Military weaponry, fine arts (woodwork, ceramics, glass, earthenware, paintings, metals and bronze), vintage vehicles and an airplane, textiles, historic manuscripts and calligraphy, life size dhows and Bedouin camps – it’s all here, plus more.

Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Al Thani, the museum’s private collector, is the great great-grandson of Jassim Al Thani, the founder of Qatar. In 2012, Sheikh Faisal was awarded the title “Heritage Personality of the Year” for noteworthy achievements in heritage preservation organized under the patronage of the League of Arab States. Sheikh Faisal has been collecting antiques and artifacts since the 1960s, and according to museum staff, exhibit pieces currently total more than three thousand. The five halls – soon to double in size as a new addition receives final touches – comprise collections under three major categories: Islamic Art, Qatar Heritage, and Coins and Currency along with Pre-Islamic artifacts in all the above categories.

Islamic Art Collection

The museum’s Islamic Art collection encompasses objects produced between the 7th and 19th centuries from people living in the Middle East, Far East and Africa. Arrowheads and numerous fine examples of silver-plated and inlaid steel Mughal daggers and swords are displayed along with a fine 19th Century Moroccan powder gun with ivory and silver inlay.

Entering a connecting hall, visitors are introduced to fine examples of wooden works, including numerous engraved, traditional wooden doors with Arabic inscriptions and a marvelous example of an 18th Century wooden Indian cart engraved and decorated with natural dyes.

Row upon row of paintings along with a unique two-headed bronze horse anchor an end of the hall before connecting to vintage motorbikes, bicycles and early prams and tricycles.

Qatar Heritage

Historic car buffs will be awed by this fascinating and eclectic collection of vehicles – including a 19th century steam car – vintage trucks, an airplane and the renowned Williams FW27 Grand Prix Racing Car from the 2005 F1. Rare Model T Fords, Model A roadsters, era Chevy’s, Desoto’s, Mercedes Benz and Dodge vehicles ranging from the 1910s up through the 1960s are well represented.

As an expat visitor, I found myself naturally drawn to the key displays in this hall as they portray the Bedouin way of life and offer glimpses into Qatari heritage that reflects the continuing evolution of the culture. Actual Qatari fishing boats and dhows, fishing equipment and early pearl diving apparatus are very impressive. Qatar heritage is further illustrated via two ample sized Bedouin tents and a stone well drilling down at least 10 feet complete with water barely discernable at the bottom. A large air bellow rests aside a campfire, once used to keep the huge flames burning to allow for cooking and roasting meat. Miscellaneous everyday utensils and objects, which are also important components of Bedouin Arab history, are scattered about helping to tell the story.

A separate area in this hall houses Islamic, Jewish and Christianity artifacts as well as private rooms set up illustrating 19th century kitchens, bedrooms and the appropriate fashions of the day.

Coins, Currency and Calligraphy

Sheikh Faisal’s collection includes both pre-Islamic and Islamic coins ranging from the Umayyad’s to the Ottomans. Banknotes from across the world are also displayed.

Numerous manuscripts, Qurans and centuries-old leather bound books are preserved in a climate-controlled wing of the museum across the hall from another air-conditioned section housing unique styles of jewelry, textiles and embroidered clothing.

One of the highlights for me was the reconstruction of an upper class home from Aleppo, Syria. The structure was dismantled and relocated to the museum where it was painstakingly reconfigured. The fine detail and magnificent ceiling and wall designs and their respective colors are incredible.

Moroccan Style Furniture and Accessories

Massive groupings of wooden and metal inlay wardrobes, chandeliers, chairs, fans and the like overpower the length of one of the hall walls. The pieces are massive and impressive! (photo) Under a glass display is a fascinating collection of women’s sabots (wooden shoes) dating to the Ottoman period. Many were inlaid in mother of pearl, ivory and silver while others were painted with natural dyes.

Scattered throughout the halls are hundreds of carpets and antique rugs both on the floor and hanging behind glass frames on walls, which are also part of the museum collection. Think of the stories behind the designs, workmanship and depictions of these wool and silk threaded masterpieces.

Two courtyards featuring individual wooden carts and miscellaneous wagons and wheels rounded out the exhibit. One of the courtyards had yet another deep well. The courtyards looked to be unfinished works in progress.

If you find yourself in Doha, Qatar, a visit here is a must. The Sheikh Faisal Museum leaves a lasting impression, particularly for history buffs that want to learn more about the rich Arab culture and Qatari heritage and the historic events that contributed to their evolution.

The museum is open from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and on Saturdays. It is closed on Sunday and Friday. Call +974 4486 1444 for directions and to schedule your museum visit and reserve an English-speaking tour guide if you are booking a private group tour. Admission is free. The Sheikh Faisal Museum is a member of the International Council of Museums – UNESCO.

 

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